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French President Emmanuel Macron has said the aim of what the government calls a “health pass” is to drive up vaccination rates, which had begun to plateau in recent weeks.
Even before Parliament passed the new bill this weekend, the changes Macron announced two weeks ago appeared to have a measurable impact on vaccination coverage. Coronavirus vaccine-booking platforms recorded a surge in appointment bookings within hours of the announcement, and the country hit several records for the number of daily vaccinations since then.
On Monday, Macron said on Twitter that 40 million residents — or about 60 percent of the population — have now received at least one vaccine dose. More than 4 million doses have been administered over the past two weeks, he said.
The new rules approved early Monday in France will also make vaccination mandatory for health workers, who risk suspension if they are not inoculated by Sept. 15. The legislation was sent by the government to France’s Constitutional Council later Monday so that it could scrutinize the new law.
Opponents from across the political spectrum have said the law contravenes France’s traditional understanding of liberty and equality. An estimated 160,000 people rallied against the changes in France on Saturday. Far-right leader Marine Le Pen last week called the plan “an attack on freedoms and equality between citizens.”
France was previously one of Europe’s most vaccine-skeptical nations, and the French government was initially criticized for being too cautious in urging residents to get vaccinated as the shots were rolled out beginning late last year.
The recent shift in strategy appears to be driven at least in part by concerns over the highly transmissible delta variant, which has triggered a surge in new cases. France recorded almost twice as many new cases per capita over the past seven days as the United States.